Spooky crostata di zucca

Hello food lovers!

Tomorrow will be the last day of October, and the night when all spirits raise to infest your homes… looking for candies!

Here in Italy the trick-or-treat tradition never really became a fashion, but kids (and adults) love to dress up and celebrate as well!
So today’s recipe, either if you’re an adult celebrating with people of the same age or if you want to prepare something special for your kids, will be nice and spooky enough to say Hallo to Halloween!

CROSTATA DI ZUCCA

150 gr flour
30 gr sugar
30 black cocoa powder
1/2 spoon of salt
1/2 spoon of cinnamon powder
110 gr butter
1 pinch of soda
1 egg

100 gr dark chocolate

– for the cream –
400 gr pumpkin
160 gr sugar cane
130 gr ricotta
3 eggs
1/2 spoon of cinnamon powder
1/2 spoon of ginger powder
1 pinch of nutmeg

Mix together the flour, the sugar, the salt and the cinnamon powder, then carefully add the butter – it has to be softened (better if taken off the fridge half an hour earlier), the egg and the soda pinch.
Knead the mix until you obtain a consistent dough, which will be the base for your crostata. Wrap it and let it rest into the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Yay! One hour free!
-no, nope, don’t even think about it. You will be busy, keep reading…-

Once the hour has passed, roll the dough out on a flour-coated plain surface, then put it into a cake mould. Pierce the bottom with a fork and put it back into the fridge again, for half an hour.

Heat the oven up to 180 celsius degrees, and start chopping up the black chocolate.
Now cover the half-baked dough with some greaseproof paper and put upon that some weight (dried beans for example are very useful – they will preserv the dough from burning) and put everything in the oven for 10 minutes.

lenticchiesecche

As soon as you take out the dough, get rid of paper and bean (careful, they will burn) and cover with the chocolate, that will start to melt.

Meanwhile, when you had all that entire hour, you have been busy preparing the cream: steam cook – or just boil – the pumpkin cut in small pieces until is soft, then blend it and add all the ingredients for the cream: sugar cane, ricotta, eggs, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg.
Mix everything together until you obtain a smooth cream.

Now pour the cream on the biscuit (the frolla) and bake for 40 minutes – those will be actually free!

Once the cake is cold, you can embellish the surface using some liquid cocoa (black or white, as you prefer) or the remains of the dough: what will you choose? A spider web? A spooky jack o’lantern? Two cat’s eyes?

crostata.zucca-halloween-586x358

It doesn’t matter: the crostata will be beautiful and, what is more important… delicious!

Happy halloween everyone!

Five objects to be a true “studente fuorisede”!

Hello Foodies!
Last time we talked about pasta e ceci, a typical “studente fuorisede” meal.

What is a “fuorisede” exactly? Literally, this word means “away from home”: they are the students who go to universities far from home and start their lives by themselves. When they’re freshmen, they are called “matricole” (because they have their student’s id assigned for the first time) and they are mostly known for their inability: they cannot clean, they cannot cook an egg… Though it’s not that true, my own experience is that I ate cous cous with cold tomato juice for 7 days in a row because it was quick and I really did not know how else to prepare it.

Then I grew up.

So, if you’re moving out home, ready to begin a new life, here five things you will have to stuff in your suitcase and place in your new kitchen:

1 – A CAN OPENER

Because you never know when this will happen

470983_10150701307476543_361088366_o

But you know you will be prepared.

2 – DISH TOWEL NAPKINS

Dishes dry by their own, but in a student’s house they’re probably not as much as you need… so a little help is really welcome. And they’re helpful, they prevent the paper waste, they’re washable and if they’re good they last a lot.

Perks: you can also use them for nice pranks…

3 – SALT AND SUGAR

Trust me, you will never, ever remember to buy them when you need them: so better have a stash in your credenza. You might say yes, ok, I understand the salt issue, but sugar, is it really necessary? It is. Especially when you’re an “outlander” and you taste your very first italian coffee. And what if you invite someone over and they put sugar in their tea, and you don’t have it? It’s really embarassing, don’t you think?

4 – PASTA

pasta

Lots of pasta, because it cooks quick and it can be delicious with so less ingredients (if you follow our recipes, you know that for sure!).

Tiny pasta for winter broth when you’re ill and you need comfort food, medium pasta for everyday lunches, large pasta for dinner with friends… it’s an ally that never let you down!

5 – LAST BUT NOT LEAST… A COFFEE MACHINE

You’re in Italy, right?

So you will have to learn how to use a Moka and impress your friends with a true, fresh, home made cup of coffee. It’s easier than you think, but not that simple: a lot of Italian themselves got it wrong. You will have to practice, but when you’ll learn you will also understand why do we prefer this tiny cup of black delight.

moka

In this sense, very interesting is Florence Food Tour : you can visit a local bar for an original Italian Coffee tasting and you will get to learn about the history behind these typical Italian “morning jump starters”.

Ps.: if you want to have it like at the bar, with this softy cream on top, you will need the sugar. There is a way, but you have to ask it to your roommate, once you’ve proved yourself with the art of Moka!

So you’re ready to pack now, better prepared than lots of us: enjoy your stay and eat well!

PASTA E CECI

Hello Foodies!

October in Italy: the University starts over and a bunch of young people start their live alone, far from home… without knowing what to cook!
Not only Italians: a lot of foreign students come here to learn our beautiful culture, and feed themselves with tunafish cans and pasta with readymade tomato sauce.

One of most famous “student’s dinner” is Pasta e ceci: how do they do that? Simple! They overcook pasta and throw on it an entire can of canned chickpeas. Ew.

Let’s learn how to prepare a true, and delicious, pasta with chickpeas!

pasta-e-ceci

you will need:

– 1 Sellery

– 1 Carrot

– 1 slice of Garlic

– Pasta for 4 (400 grams)

– Chickpeas x 200 grams (yes, also the canned chickpeas are fine)

– A little bit of bacon

– Salt&pepper

– Olive oil

While the water is boiling in a big pot, cut the vegetables in order to prepare a soffritto: everything must be very thin. Once done, heat up the oil (it mustn’t be boiling) and pour the veggies, let them be on a soft fire until the smell is really good and the garlic is golden.

Add the bacon and the chickpeas and leave them flavoring with a really low flame.

Meanwhile throw the pasta (the best: paccheri or maccheroni) into the salted boiling water and wait until they’re “al dente” (the inside should be still white-ish… one minute less than what’s written on the package): then drain it. Be careful: don’t throw all the water away!

Add the pasta into the frying pan and leave it, mixing, for one minute, together with the remaining water (one spoon). Add salt and pepper and there you go: a perfect pasta e ceci that every italian mother will approve!

PETTO DI POLLO AL LATTE

Hello foodies!
Since in Italy school has started again a few days ago, today’s recipe is directed to the very main charachters of this adventure: children!

This plate will be loved by kids… and adults! It is a very special way to eat chicken, and there is a secret that will persuade them to eat their carrots as well.
Let’see what this miracle is: the PETTO DI POLLO AL LATTE! (Milk chicken breast).
It’ a really tasty and easy to prepare recipe: you might think that milk and meat have nothing in common but when you will taste it… well, you’ll understand.

pollo_latteWhat you need (for 4 people):

– 8 slices -not too thin- of chicken breast

– 60 gr of butter

– 1 glass (250 ml) of milk

flour (as much as needed)

salt (as much as needed)

– less than half a onion

– one little rosemary twig
First of all: you can decide whether you prefer to keep the slices or cut them in cubes. It is perfectly the same for our recipe.
The onion should be cut in small pieces.

Then, take a large frying pan and melt the butter on a very low fire. Once hot, you can add the onions and proceed with your soffritto: this should be very light, so use just a little bit of onion and be careful not to burn them – not a bit.

Salt the chicken breast and dust it with the flour (it has to be just a veil, not a thick crust), then put them in the frying pan. Let them cook until they’re half their way, then cover everything up pouring the milk! If you want, you can add a hint of nutmeg at this point.

Let it cook on a moderate-low fire until the milk has taken in, becoming a delicious, dense cream. Add rosemary just a minute before turning off the fire.

That is the moment you will serve it, plain and simple, to your kids: the milky dip will help them eating their vegetables.

And you? Well, you can add to your dish some curry, or even better a bit of dried pink pepper.

Pici Cacio e Pepe

Here we are! It’s time to warm up the kitchen with a very traditional italian plate… pasta! This time we won’t use a common kind of pasta, like fusilli or spaghetti, but a special one.

This pasta looks like odd spaghetti, soft and large, like someone blow inside them through their very tiny hole. It’s sold in shops either fresh (in the fridge) or dried, and of course we’ll use the fresh kind – the stickier, the better!
I’m talking about Pici, a pasta type coming from the Siena area.

pici

Pici actually remind, more than the normal spaghetti, the roman bucatini – spaghetti “bucati”, pierced from one end to the other. And in both places, Siena and Rome, one of the most old, tasty and famous way to eat them is with two very simple ingredients: cheese and pepper.

Forget the Mac’n’cheese, today we go with Pici cacio e pepe!

Ingredients:
Fresh pici. 70g per person should be enough, they are pretty challenging!
– Pecorino Toscano (as much as you want) – pecorino should be old and dry, the fresh one does not make the magic here!  Oh, and yes, Cacio is a regional word for cheese.
salt
black pepper (powder. Better if it’s not too subtle)

Use a large pan to boil the water.

While the water is warming up, grate a lot of pecorino and put it aside.

You may also make up the table and take off the cellar that nice bottle of red.

Once the water is boiling, put the pici in: if they’re fresh, it will take 5-7 minutes to be ready. Do not mix too much, just be careful that they don’t get sticky! One fine thing about pici: it’s very hard to overcook them. One non-that-fine-thing: on the first bite, they will always appear undercooked. Only the first bite, though…

No more than 7 minutes later, drain the pasta: do not forget to save a tea cup of boiled water!

Put the pici in a warm friyng pan with no oil, no butter, no milk and add immediatey the pecorino, while mixing quickly, and the spare hot water. Add the water carefully: if it’s too much it will ruin the preparation.

The result should be a creamy dressing that will perfectly match the strange, softy texture of pici.caciopepe Add the pepper powder and mix again.

 

Put in plates, embellish with some pepper grain ad one more pecorino sprinkle, serve and eat warm.

Buon appetito!

La Schiscetta

In Italy a large majority of people agrees: the actual new year’s eve is the last day of August.

img via

Your holidays are over and you come back to work: in September.

School starts again: in September.

No more cozy lunches, but really quick sandwiches at the nearest bar or diner. Or maybe not: maybe you can buy a tupperware or a plastic bento box, and fill it every day with something that will cheer your lunch break everyday!

In Italy we started not long ago doing so, at least not in a systemic way. Over the past two years, though, there’s this word spreading all around: it’s the Schiscetta (pron. Skishètta), the Milanese way to say “I bring my food from home”.
Millan, in fact, is a really dynamic and modern city where you can try different kind of food and tastes. A little note: if you are not expert in the kitchen, let’s try Milan Food Tours : )

It’s unclear whether the word used to indicate the actual lunch box or it was already the concept, anyway now Schiscetta, or schiscia, has gone big in Italy. It’s quite a revolution: if you have time, or someone cooking for you, you can actually have delicious lunches and spend way less than going into a restaurant or just eat again another unealthy sandwich.

Originally made with the leftovers of your last dinner, Schiscetta has become an art: you can still do it with leftovers and have something like this

riso-fritto-banana-e-arancia-come-pranzowhich is pretty nice.

Otherwise, you can enjoy the art of improvisation, and starting create some great and light meals to give you the right energy for a working day.
Of course the Schiscetta-maniacs are usually also social addicts: have a look on instagram and inspire yourself. It’s a common habit, but mostly is a funny way to share food and opinions, not only on the web but also with your colleagues, changing your office (or the lunch room) into a piece of home, a bit more warming than just a cafeteria – you may join that later for the necessary after lunch espresso, after all!

There are some basic rules to follow in order to keep a nice air in your workplace (both metaphorically and literally): try to avoid stinky food, like cabbages or fish or fried stuff if you eat at your workplace; bring a place mat – you don’t want your desk to become a battlefield, come on; share and offer; turn the work stuff down and the music on; chat with your colleagues; bring your fruit but throw the skin in a closed bin or into the toilet bin (it is not nice, the smell of an old banana skin).

That’s it. Some basic rules and a way nicer lunch-at-work!

Now let me show you some example of the most classic schiscetta:

– couscous with vegetables and occasionally grilled chicken breast

– salad with tomatoes, tunafish and mozzarella

– “pasta fredda”, or “pasta salad”, to eat cold and keep in the fridge (pasta is usually not really recommended, even if you have a microwave, because… well, it’s just not the same thing)

– anything with rice (not risotto though)

– frittata (you can go fancy and have a frittata roll!)

img via schisciando

img via schisciando

– anything involving boiled eggs and salad

– barley salads (with olives, tomatoes, feta cheese or mozzarella…)

…and so on.

So join us in the Schiscetta frenzy, invent your recipes, mix everything up (OK, no, not everything)!

La Bruschetta

September is near: it seems unbelievable but autumn is actually coming through!

In Italy autumn is very important for some things – some food things of course: probably the most important is OIL – you know, we have a thing with oil.

olio-oliva

SOO GREEN

In november the most famous “Olio Nuovo” will arrive on market: green and bittery, it will be perfect for flavour up all your dishes – but do not use it to fry or cook stuff: as my mother would say “è un peccato!” (you would translate it as “that’s a shame”, but the correct form is “that’s a SIN”!). It’s not just because of its price: it’s a high quality product and it’s flavour it’s so peculiar that it would be a true waste cooking it instead of eating it raw.

So while you have still a bit of time to finish your old oil bottle, you can make practice with one of the “dirty pleasures” that we love so much.
Some post ago I showed you the Frisella, now it’s time to go to Tuscany and explore the world of Bruschetta (pron. Brusketta). Or Fettunta. Or Pancollolio.

The name of bruschetta is a mystery – it’s probably a distorsion of a “fetta brusca” (a toasted slice of bread – oops, I told you one ingredient!). Fettunta and Pancollolio speak for themselves: “fetta unta”: a “greasy” slice of bread. Pancollolio: Pane con l’olio. Bread with oil.

And that’s our recipe today!

yumm

1 or 2 slices of bread each. It’s not important that it’s fresh: but it has to be tuscan bread.

olive “extravergine” oil (the best you have)

some slice of garlic

salt and pepper

 

Grill the bread: it should appear as in the figure if you can use a proper grill, otherwise you can just put it into a pre-heated oven (200° Celsius for 5 minutes more or less). Or on a frying pan – without oil!

Once the bread is “croccante” (crispy), drag a bit of garlic on its surface: not too much, just to leave the hint.

Pour the oil on the garlic bread.

Add salt.

Enjoy!

 

PS. you can also use that recipe as a basis for other kind of bread-and-stuff, like a great Bruschetta coi pomodori!

 

 

 

Let’s go veg! Healty eating in Italy

Italians love meat.

Until a few years ago it was very uncommon to sit to an italian table and eat no less that a primo, secondo e contorno (pasta, carne and veg on the side). Nowadays we’ve learnt that is a not really healty way, so we divided our meals in two.

The right way is carbs for lunch and proteins for dinner: and a lot of vegetables, all the time. And we do have a lot of them!

Of course now we can have anything at any time, but season vegs are always better, way more tasty. Let’s explore when is what!

season fruit wheel

season fruit wheel

SUMMER

Summer vegs: you will find fennels (so useful to make a salad!) and zucchini, and – even if you’ll find them all the time – it’s the best time for tomatoes. Try to take some from a local market, wash them and cut them in half, then add just a sparkle of salt and eat them. It’s quite an experience, ain’t it?

Perfect time for Arugula as well, for peppers, red beetroots (ever tried to bake red bread?), chards and spinaches, cucumbers (another salad-must in Italy), “novelle” potatoes – the small ones you bake in the oven just with a bit of salt and oil…

Not to mention the fruit. Apricots, figs, melons and watermelons, pears, plums, you will find anything you need to create a light lunch at the beach: just some ice cream, and a big bowl of macedonia.

Do you know what the strange fruits under the plums (in the figure) are? They are called “Fichi D’India“, but they’re not figs at all. Most similar to a cactus tree, their plant is very common in the south, and their fruits are very tasteful. Just be careful when you peel them: they have small thorns on the skin!

AUTUMN

The upcoming season is plenty of nuts, hazelnuts, chestnuts (and all the things you can do with chestnuts!…), almonds… so good for the energy!

Chards are now really in their moment, together with a lot of cabbages – right now, the Verza is at its best. We can still find zucchini, even if they will be a bit different than the summer ones, but the very stars of the seasons are pumpkins and potatoes! Risotto, soups, roasted pumpkin, sweet and sour pumpkin, roasted pumpkin, onion and potatoes, gnocchi di patate, and you can just go on until your brain melts down!

UVA-COPERTINA-CESTO-Copia

We do have a very famous proverb here in Italy: an apple a day, takes the doctor away. Well, now it’s time to start the cure. Apples are mature and fully formed, in short time they will be too soft to eat them other than baked in the oven with a bit of honey and cinnamon! For the moment, just go with your autumn macedonia, or switch to the other september golden highlight: grapes! We would be nothing without it, and that’s not just for the wine – try it with some cheese…

WINTER

To defend yourself from the cold winter, there’s almost only one way: ZUPPA! Soups are really common right now. Cereals soups, legumes soups, the tuscan Ribollita is only one of the many examples on things you can do with almost only vegetables.

Ever tried raw artichokes with just a hint of pepper and lemon on it? Now it’s the right time. Ever mixed up spinaches and eggs?

spelt soup

spelt soup

While preparing your zuppa, don’t forget to add some sellery in your soffritto: it gives it a unique flavour.

 

 

 

And there’s fruit too! It’s actually very important to eat fruit right now. Since the sun has gone away, we need to replace it – we need vitamins and iron! The latter is provided by vegs, but what about the first? Well, we have our “bonsai” suns, haven’t we?

Ladies and gentlemen, meet oranges! Squeezed in juice, eaten alone, eaten into a salad… Orange is a great fruit, and very very healthy! If you get tired of it, you can still switch to some pears, or a nice macedonia with apples and kiwis (another great vitamin provider!).

SPRING

Veggies in spring are mostly wild herbs or beans: chicory, rocket, chives, peas, green beans and broad beans, asparagus, salads, turnip, “agretti” (there’s no english name for them)… take the herbs and make them sautés with a bit of oil and nothing more; take the peas and eat them with pasta or by themselves, take the beans and, well, do whatever you want with them! Insalata di Cacioricotta e Fave

And what about fruit? You know already… there are strawberries! Cherries! Medlars!

Make yourself all the smoothies you want, that is the perfect season with the perfect flavours: sparkling and happy just like summer is!

 

 

 

 

Carpaccio di zucchine

This summer is one of the warmest ever experienced in the last twenty years – I don’t say it, scientist do!

So I can imagine you, in front of the fridge, trying to soak up all the iced breeze you can, while wondering what to cook without turning on the smallest flame in your kitchen…

nope.

Well, we’re here for you!
Today’s recipe comes with a very healty and very versatile ingredient, that you can eat raw or cooked, it goes well with pasta, with tunafish, with shrimps, with mint, alone… behold the wonder of zucchini!

Since we decided that we don’t wont to turn any fire on, I will show you a wonderful, easy, tasteful recipe with all the flavour of Italy on the inside: il Carpaccio di zucchine.

For 4 people you will need:

this kind.

this kind.

– 4 zucchini, fresh and soft. You have to pick the plain kind, not the one with the channeling (the one with the flower)!

– 1 slice of garlic

– 1/2 organic lemon

– some leaves of parsley

– a teaspoon of rose pepper

– 2 soup spoons of olive oil (and even a bit more)

– 100 g Parmigiano or Grana

– 30 g pine nuts, or nuts, according to your preference

– salt&pepper

Start mixing the oil, a bit of salt and the black pepper together with the roughly chopped parlsey and garlic. Mix slowly but carefully, until the salt looks melted.

zucchine_thin

Leave the mixture rest, while slicing the washed zucchini with a potato peeler, the thinner the better.

Kindly arrange the zucchini slices on a large plate: create a layer, then cover with the dressing and some of the nuts/pine nuts; add another layer and cover with the dressing.

On the top you will add the rose pepper, the Parmigiano and, if you want, just some arugula leaves.

Squeeze another bit of oil and… voila, your easy and tasty dinner is ready!

IMG_9629

 

And… you can also serve it toghether with a frisella!

La Frisella Pugliese

Hello everybody!

Today’s dish comes right from the southern tradition. You will probably find it quite similar to Panzanella salad, but that’s just the way it works with tradition: people was used to prepare their meals with what they had, and, very often, that was just old bread and vegetables.
And olive oil.

So, let’s go south and enjoy the very typical lunch of Puglia (and Basilicata, and Campania): La Frisella (or fresella, or frisa, or fresa… it depends on where you are)!

There is actually more than one way to prepare it: let’s see!

First of all, what is a Frisella?
A frisella is a large, round piece of dry baked durum wheat flour, often with a hole in the center, thick or thin depending on where you are.

frise-frontback

Anyway, it’s a very hard thing to eat alone: infact, it is commonly considered sort of a edible plate, to cover with food. You know when people say they’re so hungry they might as well eat the plate? Yes, that’s the case.

You will need:

1 or 2 Frisella each: it depends on how hungry you are, how big are the pieces, how thick…
let’s say you will pick 2 medium size and thin Frisella each.

oh look! my ingredients!

oh look! my ingredients!

 

6 small, red, juicy tomatoes: three for each piece of bread.

oregano OR basil

green pepper

salt

extravirgin olive oil

 

 

That’s all you need for a proper Frisella. Now, you can choose two ways of preparing it:

1) you chop the tomatoes, mix them with a bit of garlic, olive oil and salt and then cover the bread with the mix – like it’s a bruschetta. Cover with a pinch of pepper and oregano.

2) you cut the tomatoes in two and rub them directly on the bread until it becomes red, then pour the salt, the pepper and the oil (in this exact order) and rub again… with your finger! Oregan comes last. If you like them you might also leave the tomatoes skin on it and eat them with the rest.

The first way is more polite – and clean – and it’s very elegant to show. You can either serve the Frisella ready or let the guests season it as they want.

frisella
The second way is a bit more… let’s say rural, but it’s a real dirty pleasure. So if you’re comfortable at home, alone or with close friends, you really should try it once!

Before doing all that, remember to wet the frisella! Unless you have very strong teeth, it’s highly recommended to plunge them quickly into cold water – under the sink or in a bowl – before seasoning. They absorbe the liquids very fast, so it’s a matter of seconds.

You can eat a Frisella alone, since it’s just like a bowl of pasta: but no one will give you looks if you eat some salad (fennel&oranges salad, or just salad, or onion salad… did I say salad?) with it. Or cheeses – in Puglia it’s common the “cacioricotta” cheese but you can go multicultural and try Feta cheese. Or olives. Or everything of that.
We give you the basics, but it’s really up to you creating your masterpiece – that’s the best of tradition!

Enjoy your southern dinner!